Since 1964 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been showing every Christmas. At our house, even 45 years later, it’s an annual staple with my wife and I and my two teenage daughters. Having seen it so many times before, I took my seat earlier this week for this year’s showing fully expecting to take a nap.
Although I didn’t fall asleep (Who could? Something about this movie conjures everything that’s good about childhood doesn’t it), I was kind of in and out through the scene where Rudolph’s fake nose falls off, the meeting with Clarice, and the Hermey scenes that set the stage for the rest of the story. It wasn’t until the “Abomitable” is introduced for the first time that something grabbed me. My first thought was how goofy the creature looks—almost comical—to me now as an adult. When I made a comment to this effect, my youngest daughter, surprised, asked, “That used to scare you, dad?” I didn’t cop to it at the time, but the answer is, well, yeah. That he looks so goofy to me now says a lot about some of the fears we tend to carry—but that’s for another post.
The real a-ha moment came when Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, and Rudolph choose to sever themselves from the mainland and float into the icy unknown in order to escape the Abomitable. In this event there was something unmisakedly Rubicon-like about Cornelius’ willingness to break the ice and float away with Rudolph and Hermey. Now that’s a heart for adventure. He didn’t even give it a second thought. And this sequence of events stands directly opposite of the musicality and games going on just down the block at Chistmastown.
The decision to rope yourself to a friend, leave comfort behind, and drift away is such a contrast to life in Christmastown where every day is Christmas, the citizens sing instead of talk, and rub elbows with the one and only Santa Claus every day of the year. You’d think this was the perfect place to live! For sure it seems to be safe from the kind of danger embodied by the Abomitable. The only problem with Christmastown is that they don’t handle exceptions very well. And I guess another problem with Christmastown is that they expect everyone to be the same—and if you do find yourself a little different, then for crying out loud find some means to hide it. And yet another problem is that it is so safe. Perhaps even too safe. And in this it must be said that sometimes we build a life for ourselves that is so safe that we actually end up protecting ourselves from the very things we were intended to face.
But most obvious to me during this last viewing is the reality that the Christmastowners were unwilling, at least in the beginning, to get on that proverbial “piece of ice” with Rudolph, one of their own, and “do life” with him. With all the songs and the Christmas trees and singing animals and magic, there was no real intimacy to be found. The intimacy, as it turns out, was found only in the wilderness and in the face of danger and uncertainty.
Good stuff. And that’s not even getting into the great “misfit toy” storyline. (Did anybody know that the winged lion actually had a name?)